Rabbi Weisberg promoting the new book, a sheikh at his side
Rabbi Weisberg promoting the new book, a sheikh at his sideIDF spokesman

Rabbi Yosef Zini, the rabbi of the Rova Daled neighborhood of Ashdod, has sharply criticized a new book published by the IDF Rabbinate which describes the Israel Defense Forces as a "mosaic of religions and communities," and indeed is titled as such: "Mosaic."

"Comparing our holy army to a mosaic of objects from a flea market is a desecration of G-d's Name," Rabbi Zini wrote to his students. "This should shock and horrify not just us, but the entire Jewish cultural world!"

The editors introduce the book with a quotation from Chazal, the Talmudic Sages: "Just as their faces are dissimilar, their views are also dissimilar." These words, Rabbi Zini points out, "were spoken with regard to members of the Jewish People, not to Jews in comparison with Christians and Circassians."

The book deals in depth with non-Jewish customs such as baptism as well as the practices of other religions including Karaism. The author is the head of the IDF Rabbinate's department of Jewish law, Rabbi Haim Weisberg, who is expected to be appointed head of the IDF Rabbinate in the near future and to be promoted to the rank of colonel.

The book bears the imprimature of the IDF Chief Rabbi, Eyal Karim, and has also been approved by senior Christians. Several non-Jewish "experts" were apparently consulted in the writing of the book and their names are listed in the introduction. Furthermore, a minister from the Karaite sect (which refers to itself as Jewish but has been divorced from Judaism for centuries) is referred to in the text as a rabbi, the "Chief Rabbi of the Karaite community."

Rabbi Aviad Gadot of the Torat Lehima organization noted his "great distress due to this book, which incorporates the customs of idol worshipers and is not in the spirit of the IDF Rabbinate of previous generations, to put it mildly." Rabbi Gadot attributed the book's content to "external pressures" on the IDF Rabbinate, and added that his organization would "continue its efforts to strengthen the IDF Rabbinate and protect its independence in Jewish law and reconnect it to the wider Rabbinic world in order to strengthen the Jewish character of the IDF."

Responding to the criticisms, the IDF spokesman issued a statement saying, "The book 'Mosaic' deals with services provided within the IDF to those who follow various religions while in the IDF. Those who serve come from all kinds of backgrounds in Israeli society, and officers must be familiar with their religions and customs. The book was written in order to expand on this in greater depth, and is not to be considered a book on Jewish law. The book was printed and distributed by the official IDF publisher and received the required authorizations."